We’ve come to Norfolk to celebrate New Years Eve. And, as is to be expected for this time of the year, the Island’s village and homes have decked the halls with a glow of lights and glitter, but it’s as if Mother Nature herself too is celebrating the season, with her own decorations of spangle. The majestic pines that grace the island are draped in whispers of pale green ‘tinsel’ that flutters in the breeze. Lichen, or as I like to call it Poppy's Beard, coats the trees like an ethereal thread. In some areas it has even draped itself across the timber fences. We take a walk through the Botanical Gardens and find gems of fungi lacing the forest floor and stepping along trunks and branches. The enormous Figs lining the road near the Norfolk Blue Farm, glow in a peppering of moss and across the road in the Hundred Acre reserve, the glades are a carpet of soft wispy grass that feels like feathers.
M and I spend hours exploring these beautiful forest areas. At the Hundred Acre reserve we are enthralled to be ‘checked out’ by the nesting White-capped Noddy’s that swoop down and flapped around us. At first I got such a fright and went into duck and cover mode, thinking I was about to experience a scene from Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, but then realise the Noddy's are just being either curious or were going about their business. collecting pine-needles and grass to stuff in their nests…. but then again, they might also be trying to find some peace and quiet from the squawks of their chicks – the 'racket' coming from the nests in the trees was incredible! Each branch seem to have three to four nests along it, all occupied by some very hungry mouths.
We ramble through the reserve and soon find ourselves at Rocky Point where the Mutton Birds nested. Great whopping holes pepper the cliff top, under shrubs, in the grass and further into the forest. A honeycombed trap for the unwary or those who are be too busy oohing and arhing (like me) at the graceful glide of the mutton bird… graceful that is until they land, then it’s a messy fumble and tumble into the grass or onto the cliff rocks.
The following day we make tracks for the botanical gardens, a small reserve of about a hectare, once a private garden until resumed by the crown in 1974 (as requested by the owners). This place is magical, filled with the native plants of Norfolk, every corner and turn held a glorious surprise. In parts, great swathes of Golden Orb Spider webs cluster across the trees and give the appearance of rising mist. Colonies of Golden Orbs spin thier spools and when their yellowish bodies catch the suns rays they glint and glow like precious gems.
Of course, there is so much more to Norfolk Island than cute little birds and lichen dripping off trees, there’s also the swirling of words and stories flowing from the minds of writers who have the most delicious views to dream in. Norfolk is, and has been, home to some literary greats, of course the best known being Colleen McCullough (and yes I did go a-hunting for her driveway), also living here is the daring adventuress and 'hook you in' travel writer - Sorrel Wilby; but it's neither of these whose home of words I want to find. I go in search for a muddle headed wombat and the time-travelling Abigail who played with Beatie Bow. I wanted to see where Ruth Park had tapped away and created her stories. Park had lived on Norfolk from '74 to '81, during which time she wrote her Miles Franklin Award winning "Swords and Crowns and Rings", as well as "Playing Beatie Bow" and the third in what was my favourite series of hers (Harp of the South & Poor Mans Orange) "Missus". It had been many years since Ruth Park had lived on the island - having gone there after the death of her husband,author D'Arcy Niland - and I was concerned maybe I'd have problems finding someone who might remember where she lived. But I shouldn't have even given it a thought, those who live on Norfolk have long memories and know thier community well - the very first person I ask knows exactly where I can find her previous home.
The tiny cottage on the hill where stories had spilled forth was quite nondescript with a tiny nameplate declaring it "Park House". It was also up for sale. Suddenly I have fantasies of 'what if I ...' and just had to go see the Real Estate and ask its price. Much to M's relief it was sold and settling that very week. (Althought it doesnt' stop him checking out the other houses displayed in the agents window and murmering a few 'fantisies' of his own)
Calling it a day on stalking literary celebrities it was time to celebrate new beginnings and New Years Eve on Norfolk Island was a smorgasbord of offerings. There were so many 'parties' and functions happening we're spoilt for choice. We decided to go to Governors Lodge, having heard Trent Christian will be playing there - we'd already heard Trent play twice on the Island, once at the markets and again at the Fish Fry - and with his amazing voice and infectious laugh we knew we'd be in for a great night.
Great night was an understatement!